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Shaw Charity Classic – making a difference

From left: Louis-Pierre Helie, Olympian (Ski Cross), Campbell Laidlaw, Shaw Ambassador for Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta and Olympic bronze medalist Lyndon Rush (Bobsleigh).
Photo credit: Melissa Renwick

July 19, 2013

By Chris Dornan, Special to Together.PGATOUR.com

CALGARY, Alberta- There is still more than one month to go until the first tee ball is struck at the inaugural Shaw Charity Classic, but the tournament is already flexing its muscles as a community leader in Calgary.

But that is no shocker to anyone familiar with the force behind bringing the PGA TOUR’s Champions Tour back to the Stampede City.

The philanthropic team – known as The Patron Group – is comprised of Tournament Chairman Clay Riddell, Vice-Chairman Allan Markin, as well as Keith MacPhail, Jim Ridell, Guy Turcotte, and PGA TOUR professional Stephen Ames.

Sheldon Kennedy tees off in the shootout.
Photo credit: Melissa Renwick

The vision was to bring a high-caliber, family-friendly professional sporting event to Calgary, but with a focus to raise money to support children’s charities in the city and across southern Alberta.

After broadcasting to Calgarians some of the greatest names in the game would be parading the pristine fairways of Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club, August 26 to September 1, the first order of business for tournament officials was to do exactly that – confirm big names and declare the first official charity partner that would benefit from this great community event.

While back-to-back major winner, Kenny Perry, joined Steve Elkington and John Cook as the first trio of players to confirm their intent to play, the tournament’s title sponsor, Shaw Communications Inc., took center stage and committed $1 million to support the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.

On the heels of this exciting announcement, disaster struck Calgary as the city experienced its worst flood in 100 years.

While water rushing into the city streets sent politicians, first responders, media and residence into a frenzy, not to mention filled basements with sludge, the Patron Group stayed true to its mission.

The tournament wasted no time dipping into its pockets to donate $250,000 to the Southern Alberta Emergency Relief Fund to support organizations with the challenging rebuilding process.

“As Calgarians, we were saddened to see the devastation caused by the flooding in our city, and the impact those floods have had on thousands of children across Southern Alberta. In keeping with the spirit in which we created the Shaw Charity Classic Foundation, and the Champions Tour mandate to support communities, we were proud to direct the Foundation’s first donation to this community effort,” said Riddell.

The volunteer spirit that put Calgary on the map while hosting the 1988 Olympic Winter Games was showcased again as the community rallied together to do a major cleanup. Particular attention was put on the Calgary Stampede grounds, which was among the hardest hit areas, in order to successfully put on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, just two weeks later.

As a celebration of Calgary’s resilience, while also reinforcing the next big rodeo was coming to town in just six weeks, the Shaw Charity Classic also brought together key people in the neighborhood last week: first responders, military, media, Olympic athletes, and tournament partners, gathered for a good old fashion western-style “Shootout at The Meadows” – a fun closest-to-the-pin contest between the team of Calgarians and a star-studded line-up of Canada’s Olympic athletes.

The Shootout format used a match-play bracket that began with 24 contestants and ended with Olympic ski cross competitor Louis-Pierre Helie as the winner. Runner-up was Campbell Laidlaw, Shaw Ambassador for Kids Cancer Foundation of Alberta, and third-place was claimed by Olympic bobsleigh bronze medalist Lyndon Rush.

Tournament organizers leveraged the opportunity to fire their own guns by announcing World Golf Hall of Fame member, and fan-favorite, Fred Couples, along with Canadian golf icon Dave Barr, would be adding their names to the star power coming to town this August.

But more importantly, the Patron Group reached out its charitable arm in two more directions: this time naming the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and Kidsport Calgary as additional charity partners for the event.

“The professionalism and corporations involved in this tournament will help our community take a huge leap forward, and we are extremely grateful. We have already treated more than 200 cases in just two months at the Centre, and I guarantee you the money will go to good use,” said Sheldon Kennedy, who played eight years in the National Hockey League, but is best known for his courageous decision to charge his Major Junior Hockey League coach with sexual assault for the abuse he suffered over a five-year period while a teenager.

Kennedy flexed some muscle of his own while showcasing his golf skills in the Shootout at The Meadows.

“The ultimate goal for pro sports, and amateur athletes, is to be great role models for kids and give back to our communities,” added Kennedy. “As athletes, we have a huge opportunity to shape the lives of young people, and raise important funds to help those in need. When I see something like what this tournament is doing, and the event today with all of these athletes and community leaders coming together, it shows we are pulling on the same rope and going to make a difference.”

It is a difference the Shaw Charity Classic is focused on making for all of the youth charities playing in its foursome this summer.

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